She had just finished preparing a meal, which in the case of African women living in the bush is an aerobic exercise involving chopping wood to start a fire, carrying gallons of water in basins on her head from a distance up to one-half mile from her home, and pounding grain with a large tree limb. When the meal preparation was over, she sat down to eat, and fell over in a coma.
Her family was unable to revive her and they began wailing the death wail. “Jay-oh, nay-oh, mon ji, o mu mee!”
I heard the death wail as I studied their language in my home at the end of the day. Soon one of the dispensary workers appeared at my kitchen window.
“Auntie, can you come? A woman just finished preparing a meal, and now she wants to die.” I had been there long enough by this time to know that she didn’t really want to die. Instead this was an idiomatic expression meaning that death seemed inevitable.
Following the sound of the death wail, I located the little hut in which she lay. Pushing my way through the crowd, I entered the hut and found her lying on a low, platform bed made of bamboo. As I approached the bed, I was dismayed to see that she was well advanced in pregnancy. So if I were unable to revive her, not only would she die, but so would the baby.
Praying silently, I sat on the edge of the bed doing a cursory exam. It soon became evident that she was deeply comatose. And I had no idea of her diagnosis. No test I could do there would help me determine that.
After a few minutes, I assured the women who surrounded her that I would go to the dispensary and return with medication to treat her.
As I hurried to the dispensary, I prayed all the way. “Father, what’s wrong with her? How should I treat her? You brought me here; please show me what to do.”
Consulting my books on tropical medicine, I decided that her symptoms indicated she had cerebral malaria. I searched the information to determine what medication to give her. I found a list of medicines indicated for that condition and realized I had one of those medicines in the dispensary. But then my heart sank when I saw the warning: Not to be given to pregnant women!
Praying aloud, I asked for wisdom. Finally deciding it was better to save at least one life if possible, I pulled up the medication into a large syringe and made my way back to the hut, where people were still milling around wailing.
I began injecting the medication directly into a vein. Inject a bit, wait a bit, inject a bit, wait a bit. But then … I thought I detected a little movement. Before I had finished injecting the medication, the woman was awake and begging to get up.
By the time I left the hut, she had lumbered to her feet with help. Suddenly the death wail changed to shouts of joy.
A few weeks later my joy was immeasurable when this same lady walked into our little church hut on Sunday morning. Attached to her back with brightly colored African cloth was a little form. I could only see the head covered with tightly curled black hair. God had not only spared her life but that of her baby!
Now more than 20 years later, I don’t even remember the name of the woman. But one thing I do remember is the name of the One who brought her back from the brink of death—the Lord God Almighty!